1886 – Carl William Struckmeyer
Carl William Struckmeyer was born on April 16, 1886 in the southern Illinois town of Hoyleton in Washington County to Louis Struckmeyer and Henriette Detering. The birth certificate shows his birth was attended by a midwife, Minna Karbach.
Carl was baptized at the Evangelische Zions Gemeinde (Evangelical Zion Congregation) in Hoyleton. The baptismal font had been crafted by his grandfather and namesake Karl Struckmeier, a cabinetmaker, seven years earlier in 1879.
Carl’s father, Louis Struckmeyer was born Ludwig Karl Heinrich Struckmeier in house #27 in the small village of Hüllhorst located in Provinz Westfalen (Province of Westfalen) in Königreich Prueßen (the Kingdom of Prussia) on November 2, 1852.
Carl’s mother, Henriette Eleanora Detering was born in house #5 in the tiny village of Wimmer located in Kreis Osnabrück (County of Osnabrück) in Königreich Hannover (the Kingdom of Hanover) on April 26, 1853.
Louis emigrated to the United States with his parents and siblings in 1872. They settling in the small farming community of Hoyleton. Henriette arrived in the United States in 1873. She first settled in St. Louis with a married sister, Mary Detering Ahlers, and then went to Hoyleton to visit another married sister, Clara Detering Rixman. There she met Louis Struckmeyer.
Hoyleton, Washington, Illinois
The town of Hoyleton had been founded fourteen years earlier in 1858 by two Congregational ministers and ten families from New York. It was originally called Yankee Town, but was later renamed for Henry Hoyle who was influential in the building of the Hoyleton Seminary in 1860.
Starting about that time, an influx of German settlers soon changed the character of the settlement. One of the leading citizens of the surrounding township was Frederick E. W. Brink (1827-1905), a farmer and co-owner of the Hoyleton mill, who had arrived in the area from Eicksen, Westfalen in September 1844. Letters back home soon persuaded other German immigrants to follow. Eiksen was a small village that lay about six or seven miles east of Hüllhorst across the Wiehengebirge (the Wiehe mountains).
In the late 1800s, the population of Hoyleton was about 300.
Louis married Henriette on April 26, 1877 at Evangelische Zions Gemeinde (Evangelical Zion Congregation) in Hoyleton. The pastor was Rev. Louis von Rague.
They had nine children in Hoyleton:
- Anna Catherine, born February 21, 1878
- Frederick (Fred) Dietrich, born January 3, 1881
- Clara Anna, born May 4, 1882
- Marie Catherine, born March 31, 1884
- Carl (Charles) William, born April 16, 1886
- Martha Anna Marie, born May 9, 1889
- Johannah (Hannah) Marie, born January 1, 1891
- Henrietta, born June 15, 1893
- Eleanore Louise, born June 7, 1898
Carl went by his given name at least until 1906. At some point after that he used the anglicized version—Charles—for the rest of his life.
1889 – Sophia Louisa Wanda Kelsch
Sophia Louisa Wanda Kelsch was born on November 1, 1889 in Marienburg, Provinz Westpreußen (West Prussia), in the Deutsches Reich (German Empire), to Rev. Oscar Kelsch and Anna Wilcke. Sophia was a twin. Her female sibling died in infancy.
Sophia’s father, Oscar David Friedrich Wilhelm Kelsch, was born on December 29, 1842 in the town of Halberstadt in Königreich Sachsen (the Kingdom of Saxony).
Sophia’s mother, Anna Charlotte Caroline Wilcke, was born on September 8, 1848 in Gollnow, Provinz Pommern (Province of Pomerania) in Königreich Preußen (the Kingdom of Prussia).
Oscar Kelsch married Anna Wilcke on March 29, 1880 at the Evangelische Kirche Sophien in the Mitte district of Berlin in Königreich Preußen (the Kingdom of Prussia) in Deutsches Reich (the German Empire).
They had five children during the years they lived in Germany.
- Gerhard Wilcke Kelsch was born on November 19, 1882 in Stettin, Provinz Pommern, Königreich Preußen, Deutsches Reich
- Alma Kelsch was born in September 1888, location unknown, Deutsches Reich
- Sophia Louisa Wanda Kelsch was born on November 1, 1889 in Marienburg, Kreis Marienburg, Provinz Westpreußen, Deutsches Reich
- A twin, possibly named Clare Kelsch, was also born on November 1, 1889 in Marienburg. She died from Scarlatina or Scarlet fever, probably within her first year of life.
- One other child also died in infancy (perhaps their first), but no records have been found.
The town of Marienburg (today, the town of Malbork, Poland) was built around the fortress Ordensburg Marienburg which was founded in 1274 on the east bank of the river Nogat by the Teutonic Knights. Both the castle and the town of Marienburg were named for their patron saint, the Virgin Mary. This fortified castle became the seat of the Teutonic Order and Europe’s largest Gothic fortress. Over the centuries, Marienburg moved back and forth between Germanic and Polish kingdoms.
During the Thirteen Years’ War (1454-1466), towns in western Prussia rebelled against the Teutonic Knights and sought the assistance of King Casimir IV of Poland. During the war, the castle of Marienburg was pawned by the Teutonic Order to their imperial soldiers from Bohemia. The Bohemians in turn sold the castle to Casimir IV in 1457 in lieu of their pay.
Westpreußen (West Prussia)
In the Peace of Toruń that ended the Thirteen Year’s War, western Prussia became part of the Polish province of Prusy Królewskie (Royal Prussia). Eastern Prussia, on the other hand, remained with the Teutonic Knights, who were reduced to vassals of Poland. Their territory became Herzogtum Preußen (the Duchy of Prussia) in 1525 and eventually Königreich Preußen (the Kingdom of Prussia).
In the eighteenth century, Poland was divided up by three powerful countries that sat on its borders: Prussia, Russia, and Austria-Hungary. During the First Partition of Poland in 1772 and the Second Partition in 1793, most of Royal Prussia was annexed by Königreich Preußen (the Kingdom of Prussia), and became the Provinz Westpreußen (Province of West Prussia).
During the Napoleonic Wars in 1806, southern parts of West Prussia were given to the Duchy of Warsaw. From 1824-1878, West Prussia was combined with East Prussia to form Provinz Preußen (the Province of Prussia). The region became part of the Deutsches Reich (German Empire) in 1871. When Sophia was born in 1889, West Prussia was a separate province of the German Empire.
1890 – 1899
Carl’s childhood in Hoyleton
In his later years, Carl Struckmeyer was a frequent letter writer, expressing opinions on a variety of subjects to many people, often influential, especially in the media.
In one undated letter, Charles Struckmeyer described his early life in rural Hoyleton in the late 1800s.
“We were nine kids, lived on two acres in a small town, had a garden, fruit, a cow, fattened two hogs a year, raised nearly a hundred bushels of potatoes a year on grandpa’s (Karl Struckmeier‘s) farm, and though we couldn’t have been much poorer at times, I never missed a meal in my almost 83 years.”
In another letter (to the Reynolds Tobacco Company praising their products), Charles said,
“I chewed tobacco when I was six. My first experiments with smoking were with home-grown and home-cured tobacco raised by my grandfather in southern Illinois, tobacco so strong, it seemed to raise one’s scalp at every draw.”
Carl attended the parochial school at Evangelische Zions Gemeinde (Zion Evangelical Congregation) in Hoyleton. From 1883 to 1900, the teacher in this one-room schoolhouse was William Kleinschmidt. A congregational history claims that under his leadership, the school became one of the best of its kind in the state.
Religious education was important in the Hoyleton German community. Charles once wrote of his mother, Henriette:
“My mother, [Henriette Eleanora Detering] an educated woman, who was a student of church history—Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Wesley—could rattle off the Latin names of the 52 Sundays from memory.”
In a letter to CBS correspondent Roger Mudd, Charles wrote about the parochial school and William Kleinschmidt:
“Up to the age of twelve and one-half I attended a one-room school run by our German Evangelical Church. [It was taught by] one teacher who died not too long ago, past ninety. He didn’t have a rattan [switch], he had about a #6 wire, wrapped with buckskin. If one decided to sneak a chew of tobacco, (this was country) and got caught, Mr. Kleinschmidt would have you bend over, and believe me he’d have your posterior striped. He’d beat the hell out of you.
“At [age] twelve and one-half we moved to St. Louis, said to have at that time one of the finest public school systems in the country. Except for a slight lack in the study of English grammar, I moved right in with children in my own age group and graduated with them.
“Kleinschmidt taught 80 (eighty) kids from ages 5 to 15. In one room. Not in one language, but two, English and German, to the point that to this day at 82, I am still completely bi-lingual.
“An alumnus of this school, a first cousin of mine got a degree in architectural engineering, and built our local [St. Louis] cathedral , one of our local skyscrapers, hotels in Miami, etc., etc. In addition to being a giant in education, Mr. Kleinschmidt was an accomplished musician who played the pipe organ in church and conducted the choir. He later quit teaching and made an outstanding success in business.”
The first cousin Charles referred to was Friedrick Ernest Rixmann (1875-1942), the son of Diedrich Rixmann and Clara Elizabeth Detering. Fred Rixmann was the chief draftsman for the Barnett, Haynes and Barnett architectural firm in St. Louis. He later became an owner in the firm which was subsequently dissolved in 1922.
Friedrick Rixmann’s grandaughter recounts that Fred’s father, Diedrich Rixmann, owned a lumber and brickyard in Hoyleton. His children drew straws to see which one would go on to college. Friedrick won the draw and attended the School of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. He then became a principle with Barnett, Haynes and Barnett.
The firm was created by three family members of famous St. Louis architect George I. Barnett—sons Thomas P. Barnett and George D. Barnett and their brother-in-law John Haynes. Barnett, Haynes, and Barnett designed an early skyscraper, the 10-story Equitable Building (1894) at Locust and N. Sixth Streets in downtown St. Louis and later the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (1914) on Lindell Boulevard in St. Louis’ West End neighborhood. In addition to many other buildings in St. Louis, including the Post-Dispatch building (1916), the firm designed the Wolberg Hall building (1908) for the Art Institute of Chicago on South Michigan Avenue in the Chicago Loop. The firm also designed the 18-story building in Manhattan’s financial district, now known as the Bank of New York Building (1907). Hotels were built in Dallas, Memphis, and Joplin, Missouri, but so far I have not located one in Miami. (See Barnett, Haynes, and Barnett.)
The Barnett family firm usually received credit for designs developed by Fred Rixmann, including the mausoleum he designed for Lillian and August Busch (co-founder of the Anheuser-Busch brewery) in Bellefountaine Cemetery in St. Louis. This elaborate Gothic mausoleum, constructed in 1915, has walls made of unpolished red Missouri granite and a gray-green slate roof. The structure, home to elaborate stained glass panels, resembles a small church.
1891 – the Kelsch family’s emigration
In 1891, Oscar Kelsch left Germany and emigrated to the United States. We have no record of why he left or where he originally settled. It is possible that he was sponsored by a German missionary society that provided pastors to German-speaking U.S. congregations.
On February 20, 1891, the Reverend Oscar Kelsch arrived in New York City at the age of 48 without his family. He must have first sailed from Bremen, Germany to Liverpool, England, but we have no record of that voyage. From Liverpool, he sailed to New York on the R.M.S. Majestic. The ship’s manifest lists him as a pastor from Germany, but it incorrectly lists his age as 36.
Anna and the children—Gerhard, Alma, and Sophia—arrived in New York three months later on May 19, 1891. They sailed from Bremen, Germany on the S.S. Saale.
Again the ship’s manifest creates some problems with ages. In this case Anna, who was 42 in May 1891, is listed as 34. Gerhard (8) is listed as 7; Alma (about 2 ½) is listed as 3; and Sophia (about 1 ½) is listed as 6 months.
According to a 1976 letter written by Charles Struckmeyer, we know that Oscar Kelsch served German-speaking parishes in Topeka, Kansas; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; Ander, Texas; and Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. We have also found that he served a congregation in Biddleborn, Illinois and Chicago. Perhaps there were other parishes as well. But the complete sequence and exact dates are currently unknown.
Here is the possible sequence, with specific parishes and dates as they are known for the decade of the 1890s:
- c. 1891 – a parish in Minnesota, perhaps in or near Minneapolis
- c. 1895 – a parish in Topeka, Kansas
- 1896-1897 – St. Nicolai Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago, Illinois (now UCC)
- 1898-1900 – Trinity Evangelical Protestant Church, Biddleborn, Illinois (now UCC)
1898 – St. Louis
Carl (Charles) Struckmeyer moved from Hoyleton, Illinois to St. Louis, Missouri in 1898 with his family. He was 12 years old. The move was stimulated by a local economic downturn among the farmers of southern Illinois. Louis Struckmeyer’s wagon shop was a victim.
The city of St. Louis was growing and Louis decided to relocate there. He became a contractor and built homes in the Tower Grove Park area, including a home for his family one block south of the park at 4229 Hartford Street.
In 1898, big changes were on the horizon. Four years earlier, in 1894, Union Station opened in St. Louis as the largest train passenger station in the world. Two years later, in 1896, Thomas Edison built and tested his first self-propelled vehicle, the Quadricycle. The Model T wouldn’t arrive for another decade.
Horses still provided local transportation. St. Louis, as gateway to the west, was seeing the last vestiges of frontier culture. Charles once wrote to Pete Rahn at the St. Louis Globe Democrat newspaper:
“My memory goes back to seeing the last of the covered wagons headed west, live Indians dancing for medicine shows, my mother’s cousin who had an indentation in the middle of his forehead about the size of the first joint of your little finger where an Indian bullet had glanced off, real live cowboys with remudas of wild horses direct from the western plains.
“Among other memories is that of Frank James [brother of Jesse James], who was dressed, possibly for effect, in black frock coat and broad brimmed hat, and lived at that time at the American Hotel, at Seventh and Market [in St. Louis].” [Note: Frank James, who later in life was a farmer, shoe salesman and operator of a wild west show, died quietly in Missouri of a heart attack in 1915.]
1900 – 1909
By the time of the 1900 census, St. Louis was the fourth largest city in the country with a population of 575,238.
Around 1900, at age 14 or 15, Carl worked one summer as an office boy, receptionist and messenger for the law firm of Webster, Wheless and Sullivan in the Carlton Building in St. Louis. One of the lawyers, Joseph Wheless, was a brother-in-law of poet Sara Teasdale, who was born in St. Louis. Mr. Wheless presented Carl with a small watercolor landscape painting signed “Bellecour” which Miss Teasdale had picked up on a trip to Paris.
Charles once wrote:
“Mr. Wheless was brother-in-law to Sara Teasdale. He was newly married to her sister and in those days he had only one type of phone, the wall type with a crank on the right side. The phone was in the reception room and when he wanted to talk to his wife about something that was not for the ears of Miss Jones, the steno, or myself, he would talk in Spanish. He was later appointed the local Mexican consul.”
According to a St. Louis city directory, in 1903 Charles was working as a clerk at the Moffitt-West Drug Company located at Fourth Street and Lucas Avenue.
Later, to earn money, Carl sold watch fobs by mail order.
From April 30, 1904 to December 1, 1904. the Louisiana Purchase Exposition was held in St. Louis, celebrating the centennial of Thomas Jefferson’s major addition to the territory of the United States. The World’s Fair was located on the present-day grounds of Forest Park and Washington University, and was the largest fair to date with over 1,500 buildings. Exhibits were staged by 62 foreign nations, the United States government, and 43 of the 45 U.S. states. The Fair also hosted the 1904 Summer Olympic Games. These games had originally been awarded to Chicago, but when St. Louis threatened to hold a rival international competition, the games were relocated. St. Louis made the United States the first English-speaking country to host the Olympics.
Originally Carl wanted to be a building contractor like his father. He approached his brother Fred about a partnership, but Fred decided that they could find a more secure future with the Post Office. He convinced Carl to do the same.
On November 16, 1904, at the age of 18, Carl passed the U. S. Civil Service examination—finishing third with a score of 88.5—and joined the U.S. Postal Service as a clerk in a local post office in 1905.
On December 14, 1905, Louis Struckmeyer died in St. Louis. when Carl was 19 years old. He was 53 years old and he left behind four children under the age of 18: Martha (16), Johannah (14), Henrietta (11) and Eleanore (6).
For the decade of the 1900s, this is the tentative reconstruction of the parishes that Oscar Kelsch served.
- 1901-1903 – possibly a parish in Eau Claire, Wisconsin
- 1904-1905 – St. Peter’s Evangelical Church, Ander, Texas (now ELCA)
- 1905-1906 – St. John Evangelical Church, Nanticoke, Pennsylvania (now ELCA)
- 1907-1909 – possibly a parish in St. Louis, Missouri
Sophia Kelsch arrived in St. Louis with her family about 1908 or 1909.
On June 23, 1909, her brother Gerhard Wilcke Kelsch married Clara Anna Struckmeyer in St. Louis. Through that relationship Sophia met Clara’s brother Carl William Struckmeyer, and they began dating.
1910 – 1919
The 1910 Federal Census gives us a picture of the Henrietta Struckmeyer family. Henrietta (age 56) was living at 4227 Hartford Street in St. Louis where she was listed as the head of the household. Seven of her nine children lived with her.
Anna (32) was a trained nurse in general practice. Mary [Marie], (26) was a dressmaker at a department store. Charles (23) was a clerk at the Post Office. Martha (20) was a stenographer for a drug (pharmaceutical) house. Hannah (19) was a bookkeeper for a coffin company. Henrietta (16) and Eleanor (11) had no occupations.
At the same time, the 1910 federal census reports that Oscar Kelsch (66) was retired and living at 5450 Eleanor Avenue in St. Louis with Anna (61) and their daughters Alma (21) and Sophia (20). Alma was doing sewing for a wholesale house and Sophia was a stenographer.
Sophia’s father, Rev. Oscar Kelsch, died on October 20, 1911.
The following Spring, on April 16, 1912, Carl and Sophia were married at the home of Sophia’s mother, Anna Kelsch, at 5450 Eleanor in South St. Louis.
The house on Eleanor Avenue still exists, but the street name has changed to Christy Avenue. It lies just east of Christy Boulevard and North of Gravois Avenue in South St. Louis. The street is only three blocks long today. The northernmost block, between Delor and Wilcox, is still called Eleanor Avenue, but from Wilcox to Gravois, it has been rechristened Christy Avenue.
The couple then took up residence in Anna Kelsch’s home.
That same year, Carl was supplementing his income by selling black leather “commission cases” by mail order as evidenced by a small newspaper clipping he saved.
In September 1912, a series of incidents occurred at the Gravois Station post office that Carl never forgot.
On September 13th, Carl issued a foreign money order and made an $85 error in converting U.S. funds to the foreign currency. The $85 was taken out of his pay. Then a $1,350 package of currency disappeared after Charles had received it and written a receipt for it. His pay was docked another $25. In total, he lost $110 in pay that month.
Charles later stated that his entire salary from thirteen years at the post office totaled just $13,572 (averaging about $1,044 per year and just $87 per month). The $110 deduction was a devastating blow to his finances. Sophia was five months pregnant with their first child at the time.
In February 1913, Charles and Sophia had the first of their three children:
- Robert Louis Struckmeyer was born on February 16, 1913 at their home at 5450 Eleanor
In the Fall of 1913, Charles was admitted to the School of Dentistry at St. Louis University. He had no college education prior to dental school.
In October 1913, Charles was assigned as a clerk in the office of the Superintendent of Mails and in December as a clerk in the Executive Division.
Colin M. Delph, the Postmaster of St. Louis, allowed Charles to work the 3:30 PM to midnight shift so he could attend classes at the university during the day. Charles later worked at the post office on Sundays so he could have a full day, including evening hours, at the school’s dental clinic during the week.
According to a 1915 city directory, Charles was living at 5420 Neosho. Later that year, Charles and Sophie bought their first house at 3821 Shenandoah Avenue. (The Neosho house has been torn down and replaced by another home.) The home at 3821-23 Shenandoah is a four family flat. 3821 are the two doors on the right. I believe he may actually have been renting.
Over his lifetime, Charles Struckmeyer, developed deep-seated racial and religious prejudices. He believed that America’s superior position in the world was a result of the influence of northern European immigrants on its culture. He derided African-Americans and southern Europeans for their “inherent laziness.”
His deep-seated prejudice against Jews may have stemmed from his Germanic upbringing. But there was also an incident that occurred while he was at dental school that threatened his graduation. He blamed Jewish faculty members.
In spite of the incident, Charles graduated from St. Louis University as a Doctor of Dental Surgery on June 9, 1917. He was president of his senior class. Ceremonies were held at the Odeon Theater at 1038 North Grand Boulevard, the home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Now known as “Doc,” Charles equipped a dental office above a drugstore at Gravois and Cherokee. He began taking patients, but continued to work nights at the post office for another two years (1917-1918) until the practice grew enough to provide a satisfactory income.
Around 1918, Doc moved his office to the second floor of 2604 Cherokee Street at the intersection of Jefferson Avenue where he remained in practice for about 45 years.
In February 1919, Charles and Sophia’s second child was born:
- Irene Wanda Struckmeyer was born on February 24, 1919
1920 – 1929
The 1920 census taken on January 7th of that year shows Charles (32) and Sophie (30) living at 3559 California Avenue in St. Louis with their children Robert (6) and Wanda (10 months). Also in the household were Sophie’s mother Anna (71) and Sophie’s sister Alma (31).
On March 27, 1920, Charles was awarded a Master Mason degree at the Cinderella Hall at Cherokee and Iowa of the Pomegranate Lodge No. 95 of the A. F. and A. M. The fee for the degree was $10 and the annual dues were $5.
Sometime around 1921, Charles bought his first radio. He later wrote:
[It was a] “crystal set, a one-tube with earphones, for which I paid my barber, of all people, a hundred bucks. I can still picture our daughter, then about two, rolling her deep blue eyes listening to Coon Sanders and his K. C. Nighthawks.”
By the Fall of 1921, the family was living in a single flat at 3520 Iowa Avenue south of Potomac.
In November 1921, Charles and Sophie’s third child was born:
- LeRoy Elmer Struckmeyer was born on November 25, 1921 (Thanksgiving day) at Lutheran Hospital
On the day of Leroy’s birth, Charles and Sophie had invited friends over to share Thanksgiving dinner. Just before the meal was served, Sophia went into labor and Charles drove her to Lutheran Hospital. The guests remained behind and finished preparing and eating the turkey dinner. LeRoy arrived at 11:20 p.m.
Around 1924, Charles, Sophie, and their three children moved to a five-room brick bungalow at 3334 Nebraska Avenue, between Cherokee and Utah.
In 1926, as a member of the St. Louis Dental Society, Charles initiated a movement that later resulted in the establishment of the St. Louis Municipal Dental Clinics which served indigent people.
About that time, Charles bought a second radio:
[It was] “an RCA with four peanut tubes. Most memorable because listening to the ’26 world series, Tommy Thevenow at bat, I got so wound up I simply had to get up and walk out into the back yard.”
About 1927, Robert Struckmeyer entered Roosevelt High School.
1930 – 1939
In 1930, Charles (44) and Sophia (40) were living at 3334 Nebraska Avenue with their children Robert (17), Wanda (11) and LeRoy (7). Charles’ occupation is listed as dentist on the census form. Bob was working as a credit clerk in a bank.
In the Fall of 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, Charles contracted tuberculosis at the age of 47. He was unable to work for three years.
Tuberculosis infection is spread by airborne droplet nuclei that contain Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which remain airborne for minutes to hours after expectoration through coughing, sneezing, or even by talking by persons with pulmonary TB. Dental practitioners may be at increased risk because they work in close proximity to potentially infectious secretions leaning closely over the person’s mouth. Charles may have contracted TB in any number of ways—by working with an infected patient who coughed on him or by getting bacteria-infected saliva on a cut on his hand.
In October 1933, Charles Struckmeyer entered the Robert Koch Tuberculosis Hospital located at 4101 Koch Road in the town of Oakville, south of the city of St. Louis and south of Jefferson Barracks.
Like most major American cities in the nineteenth century—especially port cities—St. Louis had repeated problems with infectious diseases. Cholera, yellow fever, leprosy, smallpox and diphtheria were among the diseases to strike the city, leaving tens of thousands dead. By 1910, tuberculosis was responsible for more deaths than all the other infectious diseases combined. To combat the disease, the former Smallpox and Quarantine Hospital was converted and named the Robert Koch Hospital after the German physician who first isolated the tuberculosis bacillus in 1882. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his tuberculosis findings in 1905 and is considered one of the founders of bacteriology.
Nineteen buildings were constructed by 1939 and an 105-acre farm, post office, railroad stop, housing, and recreational facilities made the hospital almost self-sustaining. By the end of World War II new medications decreased the life-threatening effects of tuberculosis; from the 1950s to 1983 the hospital was used as housing for the indigent elderly.
In November 1933, Charles wrote to a friend, Dr. L. E. Stark (possibly a dental school classmate) in El Paso, Texas. He stated that he expected to be in Koch Hospital for at least another four months and then hoped to move his family to Texas in the spring where he would enter another sanitarium. He inquired about the cost of real estate.
While Charles was out of work, support for the family fell on Sophie and their son Bob who was then 20 years old. Wanda, 14, had just entered Cleveland High School and LeRoy was only 12 years old attending Froebel Grade School.
Bob Struckmeyer began working for the Brown Shoe Company, moving leather hides in a warehouse. He convinced the company to take him on as a management trainee and soon rose to a management position. The company eventually sent him out of town to revitalize a failing factory. Other similar assignments followed.
The Brown Shoe Company was founded in St. Louis in 1878 as Bryan, Brown and Company. In 1893, it changed its name to Brown Shoe Company. In 1904, they introduced their trademarked “Buster Brown” character to the world at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
At some point Charles moved to a sanitarium in Texas…
Wanda Struckmeyer attended Cleveland High School from about 1933 to 1937. There she met Robert Francis Heuer, a talented musician from a musical family. He had been born on December 24, 1916 to Walter F. Heuer and Lillian M. Unger.
Charles later wrote about Bob Heuer:
[He was] “a guitar player who at age 16, traveled with Clyde or Claud Thornhill, got tired of the road and [then] was with Russ David, whose father was a teenage companion of mine and whom I have known since he [Russ] was 15 and played piano at Fox Spring Lodge outside Cuba [Missouri].
[Bob Heuer was] “a scion of a musical family here in the city for a hundred years or more. Founders of the symphony and the Aeolian Co., leading the band at Lincoln’s funeral, his grandmother playing the organ at St. Joseph’s on So. Seventh until 80, etc., etc., etc.”
Bob Heuer’s mother was Lillian M. Unger. His grandfather, Charles Unger, rose from a clerk’s position at the Balmer and Weber Music House in St. Louis to become the company’s president. Bob’s grandmother, Lillian Balmer Unger, sang in early productions of the Muny Opera in St. Louis’ Forest Park. She also played the piano and in her later years, she played the organ at St. Joseph’s church. Her father, Charles Balmer, founded the Balmer and Weber Music House in 1846. His wife was Theresa Weber. So far, I have found no connection between the Balmer and Weber Music Company and the Aeolian Music Company referred to in Charles’ letter.
I haven’t found a record of who led the band at Lincoln’s funeral, but Balmer and Weber published music titled A Nation Mourns Her Chief (1865) and Lincoln’s Funeral March (in a 1876 collection).
As a singer, Lillian Balmer Unger may have participated in the St. Louis Choral Society, founded in 1880. She would have been about 21 at the time. In the 1881-1882 season, the Choral Society was joined by a 31-member orchestra. In 1893, it became the St. Louis Choral-Symphony. In 1907, it became the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. So perhaps she played a role in the early foundation of the symphony.
In 1935, Lee Struckmeyer began high school at the Garfield Ninth Grade Center, a ninth grade class that was set up in a grade school because of overcrowding in the high schools. During the Depression, young people started attending high school in record numbers because jobs were scarce, so makeshift facilities had to be found.
In 1936, Lee moved to Cleveland High School for the tenth grade. His home was actually in the Roosevelt High School district, where his brother Bob went to school. But Lee’s older sister Wanda wanted to attend Cleveland because she believed it was a better school, so they both went there.
By 1936, Charles was back in practice at his Cherokee Street office.
Also around 1936, Charles and Sophia moved their family to 5616 South Kingshighway between Goethe and Milentz.
On October 8, 1937, Bob Struckmeyer married Ruth Elma Berger. She was born on April 15, 1913 in Guthrie, Logan, Oklahoma to Andrew David Berger and Elizabeth A. Beitler. An older sister, Naomi M. Berger, had been born four years earlier in 1909, also in Guthrie.
Seven years earlier, in 1930, Ruth (17) and her family were living at 3342 Cherokee Street in St. Louis. About six blocks away, at 3336 Nebraska lived Fred and Mary Berger, Ruth’s uncle and aunt. Next door to Fred and Mary, at 3334 Nebraska, lived Charles and Sophia Struckmeyer, and their three children: Robert Louis (17), Irene Wanda (11), and LeRoy Elmer (7). Ruth met Bob while visiting her aunt and uncle, but both Ruth and Bob attended Roosevelt High School so that was another link between the two.
After their marriage in 1937, they soon moved to Charleston, Missouri where Bob was sent on a special assignment for the Brown Shoe Company.
In the fall of 1939, Bob was transferred to Brown Shoe’s Sullivan, Illinois plant.
In the late 1930s, Charles Struckmeyer bought another memorable radio. He wrote:
[I remember] “the Philco 11-tube Superhet [superheterodyne receiver] with Admiral Byrd, Edward Murrow. Our youngest son kneeling in front of it with sound low, getting the news that Hitler had invaded Poland. Before it was over, he was over there.”
In 1933, after Hitler became the chancellor of Germany, pro-Hitler groups popped up across the United States. They often targeted German-Americans for recruitment and encouraged them to intimidate Jewish communities. By 1939, the German American Bund—one of the largest pro-Hitler groups in the country—had grown big enough to pack Madison Square Garden with 20,000 supporters. During the economic turmoil and social disorientation of the Great Depression, they recruited a vocal minority of disaffected Americans by appealing to ethnic pride and exploiting both their insecurities and their racial superiority. Its members defined themselves as quintessentially American while dehumanizing and brutalizing Catholics, Jews, blacks, and immigrants.
In 1937, Charles W. Struckmeyer wrote a letter to the editor of the St. Louis Star and Times in favor of these Bund gatherings and in response to a previous letter that had condemned them.
A man named Fritz Brandt wrote on to the editor on August 11, 1937. The letter was titled “Stars and Stripes and Swastika.”
As the danger of a new world war increases, a number of German businessmen deriving substantial profits from the fruits of American labor jointly with fascist American friends of the “New Germany” are throwing bait to their crowds of political dupes to swell the ranks of the believers in a fascist dictatorship in the United States. The new method consists in staging “very innocent picnics” and the establishment of camps, just for the sake of beer-drinking, Bratwurst eating and what is called “Gemütlichkeit” [warmth, friendliness, and good cheer]. At the same time the Gemütlichkeit consists in Jew-baiting, red-baiting, and the extolling of der Fuehrer and his wonderful system of government. And all that is done under the shield of the Nazi flag marching side by side with the American flag, the symbol of democratic liberties and civil rights which are given the death penalty in Nazi Germany. As an American citizen of German extraction I hereby lodge my most energetic protest against the effrontery and insult against the defiling of the American flag and all it stands for. At the same time I may say that the heart of every true lover of democracy goes out to the millions of persecuted trade unionists, Catholics, Jews and Protestants, the innumerable scientists, artists, musicians, composers, poets and writers sent to the concentration camps and exiled, voluntarily or involuntarily. Do the Nazi really believe the American people to be stupid enough to overlook the fact that the carrying of the American flag next to the black flag of Nazi piracy is mere sham to make converts in the name of patriotism to their devious plans of killing every vestige of freedom and democracy when “der Tag” [the day] has come, when the American flag is torn to shreds and the Hakenkreuz [hooked cross, or Swastika] hoisted on the White House?
In response, Charles W. Struckmeyer, wrote a letter that was published a week later on August 18, 1937. It was titled “American Nazis Good Citizens.”
Fritz Brandt, who claims to be of German extraction, says: “when ‘der Tag has come when the American flag is torn to shreds and the Hakenkreuz (Swastika to you) hoisted on the White House.” From the bitterness of his Nazi hate I judge that Fritz is all hot and bothered. Why not go down to the German House [opened as Das Deutsche Haus in 1928] garden tonight and over a few seidels [large glasses] of beer study these terrible American Nazis at first hand? He will see the same type of people I saw last night. Quiet gemütliche [friendly and festive] papas and mamas with a big stein in their right hand. Fifty years ago we found these same hard-working artisans and small business people in our many turnvereins [gymnastic associations]. Time has marched on and today instead of a gym suit he chooses to wear breeches and boots. Don’t be alarmed, Fritz, because underneath he is the same steady if not stodgy guy who will be a credit to the community if given a chance and will bring his children up the same way. Fritz speaks of Jew-baiting. It is true we find it in all European countries: in Russia with its pogroms, in Poland, in Rumania and even in Arabia. Is that any reason why we should have German-baiting here?
It was clear from this letter that Charles Struckmeyer had participated in these Bund gatherings and was proud to consider himself an American Nazi. Throughout his life, he had an intense dislike for Jews, people of color, and even southern and eastern Europeans. He saw German and Nordic people and cultures as superior. He was an ideal candidate for German American Bund picnics.
1940 – 1949
For Charles and Sophie, this was a decade of marriages and grandchildren, yet tempered by the war in Europe and Asia.
On February 6, 1940, Stephanie Ruth Struckmeyer was born to Bob and Ruth Struckmeyer in Decatur, Illinois. Decatur was the largest city located near the Sullivan Illinois shoe plant where Bob worked.
On February 22 , 1941, Wanda Struckmeyer married her high school sweetheart Robert Francis Heuer.
In early 1942, Bob Struckmeyer was again transferred, this time to the Brown Shoe Company plant in Murphysboro, Illinois.
Lee Struckmeyer was drafted into the Army on October 26, 1942. A month later, Bob Heuer joined the Army on November 30, 1942.
Two more grandchildren arrived in 1943. Robert Louis Struckmeyer Jr. was born on March 9, 1943 to Bob and Ruth Struckmeyer in Murphysboro, Illinois. Barry Stephen Heuer was born on August 9, 1943 to Bob and Wanda Heuer.
In November of 1943, Bob Struckmeyer was sent to Owensville, Missouri for the Brown Shoe Company, his fourth transfer in seven years.
The year ended with a wedding. Lee Struckmeyer married Betty Lee Sagner on December 5, 1943 at Charles and Sophia’s home at 5616 South Kingshighway.
On June 17, 1944, Lee Struckmeyer landed in France as part of the Allied D-Day invasion (D+11). Bob Heuer landed in Europe aboard an LST on his son Barry’s first birthday on August 9, 1944.
Also in June 1944, Charles Struckmeyer bought a two-family flat at 3805 Humphrey Street in South St. Louis. Charles intended it as a home for his son Lee and son-in-law Bob Heuer when they returned from the war.
Charles wrote that he then spent $4,000 in improvements:
“After I bought the flat, I tore out all mantels and beamed ceilings. Replastered, repainted and redecorated. Put in hardwood floors throughout. Inlaid linoleum in kitchen and back halls. Replaced gas and electric fixtures with modern electric and re-wired the whole building. Put in stoker for upstairs. Modern fixtures and medicine cabinets in baths. New sidewalks front and back including steps. New roof, with insulation under it. Put new footing under garage; rebuilt and repainted it.”
In March of 1945, when Brown Shoe Company wanted to transfer him again, Bob Struckmeyer finally had enough and resigned from the company. The family then relocated to Fredericktown, Missouri where Bob went to work for a large shoe manufacturing plant called Spalisbury, Steis and Devers. He was finally out from under “The Big Brown Shoe,” and was making a lot more money than ever before. Things were good for the next five years. Then in March 1950, bad news arrived. Charlie Spalisbury had sold the plant to the Brown Shoe Company.
During World War II, Charles Struckmeyer bought 10 acres of property on Becker Road in south St. Louis County for $3,500. He was then able to buy a Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps barracks at Babler State Park for $650. He had the building demolished and was able to recover 15,000 feet of 3-inch and 6-inch tongue-and-groove lumber which he had hauled to his new property.
In November 1945, Charles had a two-bedroom five-room house constructed on a hill on the Becker Road property for a cost of $3,745. A screened-in breezeway connected the house to the garage. Charles and Sophia lived in this house for ten years. They raised geese and chickens and had two ponies named Queenie and Hammerhead.
In 1947, two more grandchildren arrived. Kurt Lee Struckmeyer was born on February 11, 1947 to Lee Struckmeyer and Betty Lee Sagner. Robert Scott Heuer was born on November 8, 1947 to Bob Heuer and Wanda Struckmeyer.
Karen Leah Struckmeyer was born a year later on March 8, 1948 to Lee and Betty Struckmeyer.
1950 – 1959
In 1950, Lee and Betty Struckmeyer moved from Humphrey Street to 5050 Easton Avenue in the upper flat next door to Betty’s parents Alice and Ernie Sagner. The building on Easton Avenue consisted of two upper flats over two connected storefronts. Ernie Sagner ran the Radio Hospital, a radio and TV repair shop, on the ground floor.
In June 1950, after Spalisbury, Steis and Devers was bought out by the Brown Shoe Company, Bob Struckmeyer decided to get out of the shoe business entirely and took his family from Fredericktown to St. Louis. They moved into the flat on Humphrey Street that Lee and Betty had recently vacated.
With a partner, Bob purchased a large Gulf gas station and car wash at Kingshighway and Beck in South St. Louis, a block north of the intersection of Kingshighway and Chippewa where the Southtown Famous-Barr department store would later be built. The gas station was called “Speedway.”
Bob Struckmeyer was the working partner in the venture. His non-working partner, Harry Niedergurkie, was supposed to have the contacts, business sense, and experience in the field. The only thingthat he actually had was Bob’s half of the money, and Niedergurkie lost everything. Speedway went under in April of 1953.
With all of his manufacturing experience, Bob was able to find work at a plant located off of Jefferson Street in St. Louis, where he remained for less than a year. Around 1954, Bob went to work for Krippendorf Kalculator in St. Louis, a progressive company involved in shoe manufacturing.
In late 1957 or 1958, Charles and Sophie Struckmeyer bought a home at 1004 North Taylor Avenue in Kirkwood, Missouri (63122).
1960 – 1969
In February 1962, Bob and Ruth Struckmeyer moved their family to Lynn, Massachusetts, where Bob went to work in the home office of Krippendorf Kalculator at 266 Broad Street. He remained with the company until his death in May 1980 at age 68.
On July 17, 1962, Charles’ and Sophie’s final grandchild, Hillary Carla Heuer, was born to Bob and Wanda Heuer.
In 1963, after 45 years in dental practice, Charles retired at age 77.
The following year, at age 78, Charles took a trip to Europe. Sophie did not want to accompany him. Carrying two suitcases, Charles traveled by train from St. Louis to New York City. On August 21, 1964, he sailed from New York to Southampton, England on the S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam, a ship of the Holland-America Line, arriving six days later, on August 27. His passage cost $280.80. He spent the next six weeks in Europe.
From Southampton, he took the boat train to London and stayed three days at the Regent Palace Hotel for $20. From England, he sailed to Holland, arriving in Rotterdam where he spent several days. He then traveled to Amsterdam by train at a cost of one dollar. There, he purchased a first-class Eurail pass.
On September 5th, Charles took the train to Germany, traveling to the town of Minden in Westphalia, not far from his ancestral home in Hüllhorst. He wrote home that the countryside reminded him of southern Illinois, and realized why his grandfather felt at home when he settled in Hoyleton in 1872.
In Minden, he stayed at the Hotel “König von Preŭßen” (King of Prussia), and began to determine how to travel to his mother’s birthplace (Wimer) and his father’s birthplace (Hüllhorst). On Sunday, September 6th, he traveled by taxi to Wimer and had a short visit with some Detering relatives. He then set off for Hüllhorst and met with the Wilhelm Scheding family. (I don’t know the relationship.) While there, he visited a Wurlitzer factory which produced organs and jukeboxes.
I discovered an envelope from a letter mailed in 1948 to descendents of Louis Struckmeyer in Hoyleton, Illinois. The return address was from Wilhelm Scheding at Hüllhorst 54 in Westfalen.
On September 8th, Charles left for Hamburg, Germany. Plans to visit Stockholm and Copenhagen were cancelled due to bad weather. From Hamburg, his European trip moved to Berlin on September 11th, which was located inside Russian-controlled East Germany. There he met with Willy and Lotte Döhring and with Berhard and Martha Wilcke (I’m not sure exactly how these people are related.)
On the 14th of September, Charles traveled to Köln (Cologne), where he took a six-hour boat trip on the Rhine River covered by his Eurail pass, returning to Köln by rail the same day. On the 18th, he arrived in Zurich, Switzerland and then traveled to Rome on the 20th. From there, his trip led him to Vienna on September 24th and to Heidelburg on the 28th. He then traveled to München (Munich), and Regensburg before returning to Heidelburg. München was in the midst of Oktoberfest.
Charles’ final stay in Germany was in the town of Lübbecke, not far from Minden and Hüllhorst. On Sunday, October 4th, he took the bus to Hüllhorst and was able to visit the church where his grandparents had been married. The pastor was closing up the building, but took the time to show him the marriage record in the church archives. Charles then spent some more time visiting with the Scheding family. On October 6th, he traveled by train back to Rotterdam.
On October 8, 1964, Charles returned to the U.S., sailing from Rotterdam to New York aboard the S.S. Rotterdam. His return passage cost $245.70. He arrived in New York on October 15th.
In January 1966, Charles and Sophie sold the house at 3805 Humphrey Street for $15,750.
1970 – 1979
On September 29, 1973, Sophia Struckmeyer died at Deaconess Hospital in St. Louis of a heart attack at age 83. She is buried at Lake Charles Cemetery in Bel Nor, Missouri. Charles had purchased a cemetery lot there for them in 1930.
On October 24, 1977, Ruth Berger Struckmeyer died in Danvers, Massachusetts at age 64.
As he advanced in age, Charles sold his home in Kirkwood and moved in with his daughter Wanda and her family at 1315 Fawn Valley in Des Peres, Missouri (63131).
Wanda Heuer died on November 14, 1978 at age 59.
Six months later, on May 8, 1979, Charles Struckmeyer died at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis at age 93. He was suffering from lung cancer and died of a cardiac arrest. He is buried alongside Sophie at Lake Charles Cemetery in Bel Nor, Missouri.
1980 – 1989
In May 1981, Robert Louis Struckmeyer died in Danvers, Massachusetts.
1990 – 1999
On October 22, 1991, Robert Francis Heuer died in St. Louis.